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IChemE Celebrates Centennial

April 18, 2022
Organization remains an important force in the chemical engineering profession

Historians trace the origins of chemical engineering back to a series of twelve lectures given by George E. Davis at the Manchester School of Technology, Manchester, U.K., in 1887. These presentations led to his writing “A Handbook of Chemical Engineering,” a two-volume work that first appeared in 1901, and to him often being called the first chemical engineer.

Before that, Davis was a force behind the founding of the U.K.’s Society of the Chemical Industry (SCI) in 1881. He reportedly wanted it named the Society of Chemical Engineers. The SCI did form “The Chemical Engineering Group” (TCEG) in 1918. Some practicing engineers, believing a separate qualifying body for chemical engineers still was necessary, spurred TCEG to work toward developing such an organization. These efforts culminated in the inaugural meeting of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) on May 2, 1922, in London, with formal incorporation taking place in December of that year.

IChemE’s membership now numbers more than 30,000, representing 100 countries. The U.K. still accounts for two-third of members; the second highest proportion comes from Malaysia, with Australia third.

The group, to mark the milestone, has launched a website called ChemEng Evolution, that covers both the history and future of the profession. While duly celebrating its past, IChemE is focusing more on addressing current challenges. It cites digitalization, major hazard management, and responsible production as priority topics where chemical engineers’ unique skills can play a leading role.

To get the message out to a wider audience, it has partnered with ITN Productions Industry News to develop a program called “Serving Society” that includes several films on the role of chemical engineers and how the profession is helping address key societal challenges. Visit here more details and videos.

For the those in the profession and related industries, IChemE is running a webinar series on what the future in a number of key areas may hold. Webinars so far have looked at topics such as sustainability and the environment, and education. The May 11th webinar will explore how the mix of energy sources likely will evolve as the quest to achieve net-zero carbon emissions progresses. (For details on what some chemical companies are doing to reduce such emissions, see last month’s cover story “Net Zero Efforts Add Up.”) On June 8th, the webinar will focus on how new safe processes can contribute to a sustainable world, while July 13th’s session will look at how chemical engineers can bolster the sustainability of food and water supplies. More details on the IChemE centenary webinars can be found here.

Process safety and loss prevention long have been a focus of the group. Indeed, in July 1979, its Northern Branch organized the initial “Major Loss Prevention in the Process Industries” conference. Today, the IChemE Safety Centre, plays a major role in worldwide efforts to improve plant safety. (Its Director, Trish Kerin, co-hosts the regular CP podcast “Process Safety with Trish & Traci.")

While IChemE has had a distinguished history, it certainly is not resting on its laurels.

MARK ROSENZWEIG is Chemical Processing's Editor in Chief. You can email him at [email protected]
About the Author

Mark Rosenzweig | Former Editor-in-Chief

Mark Rosenzweig is Chemical Processing's former editor-in-chief. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers' magazine Chemical Engineering Progress. Before that, he held a variety of roles, including European editor and managing editor, at Chemical Engineering. He has received a prestigious Neal award from American Business Media. He earned a degree in chemical engineering from The Cooper Union. His collection of typewriters now exceeds 100, and he has driven a 1964 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk for more than 40 years.

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